Reading in Print vs. Reading on a Screen:
Student Research Projects
(scroll down for project titles & abstracts)
In WRD104, Rhetoric & Composition II, we researched and analyzed some of the claims that people make when advocating for reading in print or in digital formats, and applied those claims to reading practices associated with the New York Times, which served as the primary text in our course. We focused our research on several of the contemporary claims made for reading in print or digitally, and we attempted to adjudicate conflicting rhetorical claims made in support of annotating texts, serendipity, comprehension, deep reading, memory, the purposes of reading, and other literacy practices.
Along the way, we learned that:
- It's possible that we have been asking the wrong questions: what we should be asking is what platforms and environments support slow, deep, contextual, and rhetorical reading practices that result in comprehension? In addition to asking how we read, we should also ask why we read.
- Arguments and advocacy positions related to reading are regularly based on values — often social, cultural, economic, or ideological values — but they are not always explicitly articulated as such. For example, our ongoing and in-progress comparison worksheet reads like a decontextualized pro/con list of print and digital affordances, but those columns can be just as easily read as social, cultural, ideological, and economic values. This was good news for us, since one of our course's guiding questions, in terms of critical thinking, was what do people value?
- Reviewing scientific research is necessary in order to establish credibility for any researcher and writer attempting to stake a claim about the literacy practices surrounding reading in print and digital environments. For example, we read a recent Scientific American article — "The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens" -- that treats reading in print and on digital platforms as an ongoing inquiry question in productive and generative ways. This was another productive outcome for us, because it forced us to think about the role of science and data in the context of competing ideological, cultural, and social values. In a class on writing and rhetoric, this is an ideal outcome.
Future research efforts could, and maybe should, explore the increasingly obvious relationship between purposes and strategies for reading and socio-economic status: "the division between reading as a matter-of-fact practice of just about everyone and the reading of literature, serious nonfiction, and the quality press as an esteemed, cultivated, supported practice of an educated elite. The gap between these two literacies seems likely to widen. The reading class will flourish even if overall reading by the general public declines. An open question for sociologists is whether there exists a relationship between this emerging divide on the one hand and other forms of stratification and inequality on the other." (Griswold, et al., "Reading and the Reading Class in the Twenty-First Century.")
 “Last year, researchers at Stanford found signs that this shift may already be well under way. They gave a battery of cognitive tests to a group of heavy media multitaskers as well as a group of relatively light ones. They discovered that the heavy multitaskers were much more easily distracted, had significantly less control over their working memory, and were generally much less able to concentrate on a task. Intensive multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy,” says Clifford Nass, one professor who did the research. “Everything distracts them.” Merzenich offers an even bleaker assessment: As we multitask online, we are “training our brains to pay attention to the crap.”” “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains” http://aplangandcomp.blogs.rsu1.org/files/2010/06/the-shallows.pdf
 We owe this observation to Anthony (11:20 section), who suggested that the kind of social interactions afforded by print literacy might also be found in digital literacy affordances and applications. This does suggest, however, that we need to define what we mean by “social."
Please note that many of these projects are still in revising and editing phases.
Alessandro T-B: Print Will Always Be Superior
Abstract: In this project, I argue why print will always remain the superior method of reading, regardless of technology rapidly advancing. I conducted an online survey of some DePaul students asking them questions about the pros and cons of reading in digital and print. I also focus on what I think the pros and cons are of reading in print and digital. The main downside of digital reading that I focus on is multitasking and distractions.
Abstract: In this project, I focus on the New York Times Skimmer and its general design. The question of "what is good design?," is presented and answered when I analyze four layouts from the Skimmer. Overall, it might not matter whether you read digitally or in print as long as good typographic design is present on the page or on screen — then a reader will effectively learn from the text.
Anthony G.: Why Read at All?
Abstract: In this project, I point out the reasons why people choose to read on a day-to-day basis; how reading has an influence on certain peoples' lives. From the perspective of a business man, all way to the perspective of a read that would read just for fun. I had also looked to see if there was any difference between digital and print literacy that would have a major impact on the ways that they would process what they read.
August K.: Portable Information Devices
Abstract: The days of trains filled with people holding large newspapers while others try to get a glimpse of the news are over. Here to stay is the digital age, where almost every portable electronic device people carry with them on their day-to-day activities can be used to access a variety of information from a variety of sources.
Brendan N.: Social Serendipity
Abstract: In my research report, I expand on the conventional argument for serendipity against digital newspaper reading and instead, apply a phrase I like to call “Social Serendipity.” I explain social serendipity and how it is better used in a context of an original newspaper rather than a digital newspaper. I go on to explain my experiences with social serendipity and why my experience has changed my perspective towards being inclined to read traditionally.
Abstract: In this project, I delve into the mind of the current youth's mindset. With a generation so transfixed on appearance, I seek to find where this fascination comes from, psychologically, and what role print and digital media may play in it. I argue that, when given a choice, the current generation will choose something that will alter their appearance to others. By researching the uses of digital media in education and the difference in men and women's reaction to social media, I argue that the shift from print to digital, and perhaps somewhat back to print again, is all psychological.
Chase P.: Serendipity in Print and Digital Space
Abstract: People need connections. Without connections, people disarm their own curiosity. Without connections people are left to answer the never-ending question of “Why?” People want to secure answers and look more in depth into certain subjects. Some people call it serendipity and some may call it links, but no matter what you call it, it is an essential need called curiosity. Regardless of popular belief, serendipity is a bridge of connection that may not have an existential issue, but is needed for good curiosity. We fill this need of connection and curiosity through the use of print and digital space; both giving us a way to link to our curiosity.
Abstract: Throughout my essay on print and digital literacy, I argue that digital literacy is the way to go today rather than print because of one main factor. That factor is convenience. Digital literacy, as I argue in my paper, is everywhere you look and it’s just a click away on your smartphone or tablet. With technology the way it works in today’s world, it takes a matter of seconds to download something from the internet. You are able to access multiple things you’re interested in, no matter what you’re doing and that is why I prefer digital over print literacy.
Courtney S.: Being Online Means Anything But Reading
Abstract: For this project, I argue that print reading is not dead and many students actually prefer reading their material in print. I focus on how readers annotate in print and the numerous distractions online reading creates, as well as hindering creative thinking. I cite studies asking undergraduate students about their choice between print and digital reading, along with the views of professors and writers.
Daniel C. : The Digital Revolution
Abstract: In this project I argue to make the switch from print to digital because of how good our techonology has gotten and how much better it will become in the near future. I explain how the benefits of digital reading clearly trump a lot of the negatives that people may bring up about digital reading, and I give examples on why digital reading is more beneficial than print reading.
David R.: Why Argue? They're Both Good
Abstract: In this project, I try to make sure that I don't side with one form of obtaining information over the other and in fact state that the argument of whether print or digital is better is pointless. In this piece, I point out the pros and cons of both print and digital literacy. Both forms of literacy bring a lot to the table so promoting one side over the other is counterproductive. Maybe spreading certain information through one medium can be more effective over another.
Denise E.: The Meaning in Materiality
Abstract: The Materiality of a text is significant as the nature of the medium can help one access the context of the text. When deciding whether to read digitally or in print it is important to understand why you are reading. If you are reading a fictional piece of work and likely reading for entertainment I argue that print is the best medium. On the other hand if you are reading non-fiction specifically for information you should read digitally.
Eleanor N.:Biases behind Forms of Reading the Newspaper
Abstract: In this project I argue the importance of understanding the biases behind choosing forms of reading the newspaper.To demonstrate, I explore three biases: learning styles, the generation gap, and how the different forms make us look to others. While many people are quick to chooze one medium over another, the reasons behind said logic actually can tell us more about what people want out of their newspapers and how they best can get it.
Giovanni A.: Ushering in Our Digital Environment
Abstract: For this project I argue against the print preference using recent research and at the same time I argue why Digital is the best medium for reading. Digital is a step into a new environment that we have not yet adjusted to. The problem with digital does not lie with Digital but with us as readers. The New York Times online is more convenient, interactive and adaptive to our needs.
Abstract: I argue that printed literacy has several advantages over the digital format and therefore is more conducive to the educational benefit of the reader. I argue that printed literacy afflicts the reader with less eye strain than does digitalized text, allows the reader to annotate efficiently and freely, and forces the reader to discover other interesting pieces of information serendipitously. I also address a possible counter argument: aesthetic readers may not care about the educational benefit of printed literacy. Thus, I am intending to persuade efferent readers to acknowledge the benefits of printed literacy.
Jacqueline V.: Green Stands for Cash & Earth
Abstract: In my literacy project, I analyze the effects of reading the New York Times digitally to generating more cash and being eco-friendly. I argue that reading digitally saves both the New York Times and the reader plenty of money. In addition, reading digitally would have a direct impact on the environment by saving trees and natural gas from producing and delivering newspapers.
Abstract: In this project I chose to illustrate the inevitable digitalization and subsequent use of augmented reality as a means of accessing information in the not so distant future. I chose to acknowledge the April Fool's joke of The Guardian, where they poke fun at Google Glass, as an inevitability by highlighting that the hyper-digitalization of print-media is an example of the inherent change coming to our everyday lives very soon. And I assert outright that digital literacy is a necessary competence by further reflecting upon the advertising and consumer trends, technological innovations and adaptation, or renovation, of media business models. As the media industry further veers towards hyper-digitalization to meet the needs of new technologies and their consumers or users, those who sit by the wayside waving newsprint will be left to
(e-)waste in the floating log jam that is the global village.
Joshua S.: TBA
Abstract: In todays society people are bombarded with advertisements and social media projecting their favorite celebrities with the new 'must have' from Apple. The technological revolution going on combined with social influences are dictating the new method of writing and acquiring information. The era of holding the print version of New York Times is quickly diminsihing. In this essay I will focus on societal influence and technological changes and the effect they have on Print and Digital Literacy.
Katie H.: Print Vs. Digital: In Our Schools
Abstract: With over a million iPads bought by schools this past year more kids than ever are learning to read on a screen. With kids in mind we have to ask ourselves again, which is a better, print or digital?
Leticia L.: Synthesizing Print and Digital
Abstract: In this essay, I argue that instead of choosing between reading the New York Times in print or digital formats, people should choose to read the newspaper in both formats. By choosing to read the same article in both digital and print form, readers will gain a new level of comprehension while also adapting to our societies technological innovations.
Marisa C.: Print and Digital Unite
Abstract: In this project, I argue the upmost importance of both print and digital newspapers in the lives of society today. By utilizing both the print and digital media of the newspaper, one finds that they are able to maintain the act of serendipity in the print format and can have quick access to the most current breaking news in the digital format. It is vital to continue to foster organic serendipity in print and the quick delivery of breaking news updates in the digital mode.
Matthew P.: "The Sacredness of Print Literacy"
Abstract: In this project, I argue why print literacy has its advantages over digital literacy. I provide arguments, facts, and data from articles I have researched to help my case to why it is better to have the print versions of the reading rather than the digital versions. Print reading will never die due to the advantages it has, and even though digital literacy is progressing it will never take over the literacy world due to the sacredness to Print Literacy.
Matthew S.: Print vs. Digital: Is There a Clear Winner?
Abstract: In this project I looked at the scientific side of the benifits and downsides of both print and digital media. I used research, mostly from case studies, to prove that there is really no winner or loser when it comes to either form. I showed such topics as how the lack of annotation availability is one of the biggest downfalls of digital media. I also explored that fact that no matter how much the facts show, everyone has their prefered method for some random reason or another.
Minji B.: Interest Overrides Serendipity
Abstract: In this project, I argue that the concept of serendipity when reading The New York Times is irrelevant. I explain that "interest" is the key motivating factor for how much a reader actually reads an article versus what is skimmed through. I give further examples from reliable sources to back my argument that interest should be the main topic of how much a reader reads.
Mirna M.: Digital Literacy Gives a Headache
Abstract: I point out that there are several benefits in printed literacy compared to digital literacy such as a better comprehension of the text by using the tactic of annotation. In addition, I support this concept of annotation, by giving examples from an article written by Nicholas Carr and Alice Keller. Furthermore, I explain a conducted interview /study that I did, to support the argument about how printed literacy is better than digital literacy.
Neda T.: The Hybrid Theory
Abstract: Considering the different ways people read, digital and print platforms each have their own benefits and affordances depending on the purposes and goals of a reader. In my research I discuss the best applications of print and digital reading and the possibility of the best hybrid.
Nicole B.: The Digital Generation
Abstract: Print and digital formats are constantly being compared to one another. I chose to explain the benefits of using digital formats to read books and the New York Times. There is more convenience and money saving from using digital versions. Especially for college students who are already spending thousands of dollar on their education, they can save money by purchasing the digital version of their textbooks. I also mention the convenience of students having access to the New York Times on their smartphones or other mobile devices.
Olquiemar F.: Bringing Sexy Paperback
Abstract: With this project I’ve decided to take a different route and defend the presence of clunky, old, printed media due to its sexiness. Printed media allows for a human interaction that digital media simply does not provide which is essential for the connections and friendships we produce. Print allows for connectivity in a more simplistic level than digital media does and allows everyone around to see how sexy and attractive our intelligence is!
Rachel P. Tumblr Project
Abstract: The goal of the Print & Digital Literacy Project is to discern whether or not the print or the digital version of the New York Times should be studied in class. We would like to further explore this question because it brings up relevant and neccessary issues to discuss: does the paper version really kill more trees or use more energy? Are our attention spans being destroyed by digital versions of things? Which is cheaper? Which is more convenient? Which is more user-friendly? This study applies to a wide number of students, all researching the same thing and answering and proposing theoretical, scientific, and artistic queries.
However, what I actually did was much different. I intended to do a spin-off of this project which involved how someone, particularly a 'a theatre/design major, slightly ADD, extreme right-brained but left-wing, young for an adult but old for a teen, nostalgic, impulsive/strong willed when it comes to art and writing, bookish, horribly-busy-but-longs-for-free-time kind of person', actually reads the tangible version of a newspaper. I believe I captured this to some extent, but what I really exemplified was the 'horribly busy' part. At the same time, though, I think its awkwardness and rushedness give it kind of an honesty and interest. By using Tumblr to do a kind of blog/journal entry about how I really feel reading the physical NY Times, I definitely came to my answer for the Print/Digital Literacy: I love my books. Not so much the paper NY Times, however I can respect its recycability both physically and ideationally; print being able to crop up again and again like ideas and fashion. And each person to her own, whether it's about print or digital or books or iPads or Macs or PCs or research or dialogicality, earnestness or logic, credibility or passion.
Abstract: Acknowledging the various uses for the print and digital format, I approached this project analyzing the essential need to become digitally literate and its importance. I relied less on looking at which format was more convenient or commonly used. Yet, I portrayed how through such usage of the digital format, individuals would be exposed to a form of literacy that would benefit their interpreting information, as well possibly gaining skills to effectively communicate and interact digitally.
Sabrina D.: Print and Digital Reading
Abstract: In my Print & Digital Literacy Project titled "Print and Digital Reading," I argue that there is no need to rank one better than the other. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both can be considered the better medium based on individual circumstances. What we need to recognize as most important is that you do read and that you are able to stimulate your brain and gain information in the most efficient way possible.
Sara H.: The Wonders of Print
Abstract: In my essay, I discuss why it is better to read the New York Times in print rather than digitally. Although the New York Times has adapted to the rapid technological growth by allowing their news to be read online through many different versions, it is still preferred to be read in print. Not only is print better for your eyesight, but it is also more enjoyable.
Sarah L.: Print Over Digital
Abstract: In my essay on whether print or digital reading it better, I took the side of print. I covered topics such as its benefits for comprehension and how it keeps readers interactive, as well as digital reading’s negatives- how it limits readers from learning, and takes away reading skills that printed text would provide. I explore two separate articles of professionals who deal with this dilemma regularly, a scientific study on the effects of digital reading to readers, and my personal experience through my education when reading print and digital. My piece concludes that print reading is ultimately a better way of reading than digitally.
Julian Vergara-Wright: Old School vs. New School Reading: Don’t Forsake the Past, Be Skeptical about the Future
Abstract: For my essay I state why printed media is an "old school" way of reading, but is is more viable for growth and benefits people in the long run. Even though humans are adapting to this new torrent of digital resources it isnt neccessarily a good thing. It is distracting at times and we sometimes forget the blessings of just sitting alone or in a group reading a good book.